I always find myself feeling a tiny bit cynical when a brand launches a capsule collection of exclusive fragrances at an elevated price point. One has to question what sets these scents apart from the brand’s standard fare and who they’re trying to attract that they’re not already attracting. But exclusive collections really are part and parcel of niche these days, heck they’re actually a massive part of mainstream too and any brand worth their salt has one. The best ones though, are those with a theme and a cohesive spirit, and those that offer something completely unique. This leads me nicely on to L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Natura Fabularis collection.
Following L’Artisan Parfumeur’s rebrand and relaunch in 2016, which saw the line edited and repackaged in fabulously handsome black bottles, the brand has now launched a capsule collection under the name Natura Fabularis. The concept behind the collection is simple: each scent represents an imaginary garden thought up within the mind and nose of Perfumer Daphné Bugey. In an ode to nature, each scent carries a botanical latin name in the same way that a flower of tree would, as well as a number which represents the number of modifications the composition went through until it was signed off as perfect. There are new bottles too, lovely round ones, which set Natura Fabularis aside from the angular heptagons of L’Artisan’s main collection. Oh and they have gorgeous golden bees on them too, which is a really lovely touch.
Natura Fabularis consists of six fragrances; Tenebrae, Arcana Rosa, Venenum, Violaceum, Glacialis Terra and Mirabilis. What’s important to remember when approaching these scents is that, whilst they may carry names from a botanical handbook, they are not representative of real nature. In fact, they are completely the opposite: cerebral fantasy gardens from an imagined world, one where you are the architect, groundskeeper and landscaper. All you need to do is remove the cap, take a generous spritz and enjoy a trip into L’Artisan Parfumeur’s fabulous nature.
Tenebrae (‘Darkness’) takes its inspiration from a dark, murky forest and boasts notes of incense, resin and sap. I’m not sure whether it’s just the power of suggestion from L’Artisan’s description of this one, but I really find it to have a stifling, overwhelming quality too it. It smells like an intake of breath within a densely covered forest, where the air is thick with sweet, smoky incense and pine. Strangely though, this air isn’t hot, it’s cold with a mint-like nuance that be refreshing if it weren’t so present. Tenebrae may be brooding and enveloping, but it’s never bleak or oppressive, in fact it really is a beautiful and unusual take on darkness.
In a really solid collection, Arcana Rosa (‘Secret Rose’) is the only disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredibly lovely rose, but it’s just that and for a collection that really tries to bring something unique out in each of the fragrances, Arcana Rosa falls a little bit short. The impression one gets here is of a blood red rose that is also hot. It feels as if it is burning above a fire made from sandalwood and cedarwood, with cinnamon spice and pepper crackling in the embers. It’s lovely, don’t get me wrong, but I get shades of Le Cabo’s Rose 31 so the overall experience is one of familiarity rather than fascination. Still, if a spicy rose is your thing, do give Arcana Rosa a sniff.
Back to the good stuff though and one of the collection’s more intriguing entries: Venenum (‘Poison’). I find Venenum to be reminiscent of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Les Voyages Exotiques Collection, which was a world trip via the medium of olfaction, and it could have easily slipped into that collection if it wasn’t a member of this one. Venenum stops in a bustling train station in Mumbai. The air is hot and thick, filled with the smell of street food stalls selling delicious treats. There’s sticky rice, masala chai and giant wooden columns radiating with heat. That may all sound a bit overwhelming but Venenum is actually quite light, with a lovely soft milkiness to boot. Fascinating.
Out of all of the fragrances in the Natura Fabularis Collection I was immediately drawn to Violaceum (‘Violet’). Why? Well, I’m famously a big fan of violet (check out my guide) and I adore anything that remotely resembles iris, so on paper Violaceum was a win-win. In reality I like it but don’t adore it. The opening is sublime, with a wonderfully juicy violet note that has earthy, ionone nuances and a touch of jam to it. The iris comes across as a cool carrot note that is equally as lovely, accompanied by a touch of warming saffron to spice things up a bit. So what’s the problem, I hear you thinking. Well, as gorgeous as the opening is, things go a bit ‘expensive leather handbag’ in the base which admittedly, is lovely, but I just wanted that violet jamminess to last forever.
One could read the notes list for Glacialis Terra (‘Icy Land’) and raise their eyebrows disapprovingly. Absinth and vetiver are real perfumery materials of course, but ice cubes, really? Well if your eyebrows did raise (as mine did) then you’ll feel as silly as I did when I gave Glacialis Terra a sniff. It really does smell cold and not just cold, ice cold. The absinthe gives a really dark, biting vibe, whilst the vetiver warms things up in the base with a touch of earthy saltiness. Like a lot of other fragrances in the collection the texture is sublime and whilst Glacialis Terra feels hard like a clear ice sculpture at first, it degrades into a soft pile of warm snow by the end. This stuff is going to be SO good in summer. I can feel it.
The real stand out in the Natura Fabularis Collection is Mirabilis (‘Wonderful’). Created as a contrast between the traditional and the modern, the traditional being the sacred rituals of incense and the modern being nifty synthetics, namely Ambrox and vulcaniolide (a white musk), Mirabilis is easily the most beautiful incense fragrance I’ve ever smelled. It has a soft, velvety texture, with an incense note that feels gauzy, almost as if it is sniffed from a distance and from behind a veil. There’s a menthol aspect up top, but the rest is rich velvet, dark chocolate and musk. It may have taken 60 modifications to get it right, but boy did L’Artisan Parfumeur nail it with Mirabilis. It really is wonderful.
The six scents in L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Natura Fabularis Collection are each available in 75ml Eau de Parfum for £170.
Samples, notes and quotes via L’Artisan Parfumeur. Images are my own.